Behind every successful Somis Show Stopper stands a woman. She’s Irene Woolman.
The Show Stoppers are 31 performers and two crew members, all drawn from the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade classes at Somis School. They sing and dance for other students and local service organizations, rehearsing several days a week and getting school credit.
Their leader is a 53-year-old veteran teacher with a long history in song and dance.
“My mother says I directed my first show when I was 6,” Woolman says. “Knowing me, I probably charged admission.”
Woolman, who taught in Tulare schools for 14 years and founded a theater company there, arrived at Somis School in 1987. Shortly thereafter, the Show Stoppers were born.
Woolman estimates that regular program costs amount to about $1,000 yearly, including the cost of Singsations, an on-campus group activity that includes about 120 children in grades three through five. About half of those expenses are covered by school district money, Woolman estimates, with the other half coming from donations. When children can’t afford to buy their own uniforms, she says, the program picks up the difference.
“Every time we perform, we put out the basket,” Woolman says.
The program got its biggest boost last year, when an anonymous benefactor contributed $5,000, no strings attached.
“We don’t have a clue where it came from. The first thing I did is buy the school a spotlight,” Woolman says. One of the next things she did was stage a musical version of “Alice in Wonderland” that spring, using about $800 of the donation.
“Our biggie right now is we’ve been invited to Washington, D.C., to perform in the America Sings! festival,” Woolman says. The program is a benefit show in late April for the homeless, and it would be the group’s first trip out of Southern California.
The trip would cost an estimated $18,000, however, and to manage it, Woolman would need the money by February.
“I don’t know whether we can do it this year or not,” she says.